Opinion » Editorial


On Saturday Whistler voters elected a council that, in many ways, was a reaction to the absurd pace of development that’s taken place in this town the last few years. But in fact, responsibility for most of that construction (Village North) lies with the provincial government. WLC Developments, the arm of the provincial government responsible for selling the Village North parcels, promised to sell the zoned land at a rate that the market could bear; the only problem was that the market was always ready. As a result we’ve had four straight years of record-breaking construction values. This year’s total is expected to be 75 per cent higher than last year’s, which was 22 per cent higher than 1994’s total. What it has done is accelerate Whistler’s arrival at that once-distant point on the horizon, buildout. Buildout is still a couple of years away, but it is also an experiment that few other towns have ever dealt with. Ultimately, it means a no-growth, sustainable economy, something the new council is going to have to grapple with. Interesting then, the results of Saturday’s election. By and large Whistlerites elected people with lengthy backgrounds in Whistler who have indicated it’s time for the building boom to end. Although virtually everyone running for council or mayor felt the ceiling on development should remain in place, this is certainly the "greenest" council ever elected in Whistler. Mayor-elect Hugh O’Reilly has never been "anti-development" but he is less "pro-development" than the other major candidates for mayor. Ken Melamed, as president of AWARE, has for years made his opposition to continued development known. Voters obviously felt it was the time Melamed’s views were part of council, as he received the second highest vote total among the 15 people running for council. But after development ends and buildout is reached, what then? That too will be an issue for this council. Ted Milner, on the surface the surprise among the six councillors elected, has the background to deal with that issue. A relative newcomer to Whistler, he had to battle to overcome the profiles of long-term residents. Milner focused his campaign on a simple issue that no one else touched but no one could argue with: fiscal responsibility. Milner’s expertise in finance should be especially welcome to council at this time, because as growth slows there is going to have to be some shift in emphasis from the community back to the resort to ensure the economy is sustainable. On the whole, an interesting mix on council with a clear mandate. Melamed’s campaign slogan, Better not Bigger, summarizes exactly what this new council should work to make Whistler.

Add a comment